Your hair is an integral part of your identity, and you have the right to wear and style it in any way you want. However, the unfortunate truth is that, based on perception, long hair on both men and women can be seen as unprofessional in certain industries.
While most industries are now more receptive and accepting of individual tastes and styles, long hair is still considered unprofessional in more formal corporate environments. Hence, if you are applying for a job at a law firm or you want to become an investment banker, you must research the dress code and grooming policies of the company.
Whether you keep it long or short may have nothing to do with your talent. In fact, employers might not have any problem with your long hair as long as it is well-groomed.
However, since companies serve many clients and perceptions can vary across demographics, they often choose to follow conventional modes of dressing. And long hair could be considered unprofessional in such cases.
Hence, if you are passionate about your long hair, there are a few aspects you should consider before heading to your workplace.
Why is Long Hair Sometimes Considered Unprofessional at Work?
In the case of both men and women, long hair left open is sometimes considered unprofessional in a formal workplace. As mentioned earlier, perception plays a big role in this matter.
Long hair, especially when left untied, has been associated with unrestrained behavior for time immemorial. Almost every rebellious character in history or literature, whether a man or woman, is shown to have long, unrestrained hair.
Hence, long hair is subconsciously associated with a certain disregard for rules. Moreover, men with long hair are also often considered feminine. And while one’s gender or sexual orientation should have nothing to do with the person’s professional acumen, employers will often think about their client’s perception before anything else.
Hence, if an employee with long hair makes a client uncomfortable during face-to-face interactions, the employer will probably ask someone else to do the job.
How to Make Long Hair Look More Professional at the Workplace?
Thankfully, with workplaces becoming more inclusive, people with long hair have little to no trouble working in traditional workplaces. Offices with casual or business casual environments allow long hair with more men and women. Workplaces with a more eclectic or artsy vibe hardly care about their employee’s hairstyles.
However, it is up to you to make your long hair fit into a professional workplace. Whether you are a man or a woman, it is up to you to style your hair and groom it well so it does not get in the way of your work. Leaving your hair open and unrestrained can be very disturbing when speaking to a client or in the cafeteria.
In such cases, it is best to tie up your hair in a professional hairstyle. Ponytails and braids work well for men and women, respectively. You can also use styling gel to keep flyaway hair from your face. It can be very disconcerting to constantly push back your hair from your face while speaking to your client. Hence, speak to a stylist and develop a style that makes you look professional despite your long hair.
Can Employers Refuse to Hire You Due to Long Hair?
Sadly, yes. Some employers may refuse to hire you because of your long hair, largely due to the industry you choose to work in. For example, unrestrained long hair is a strict no-no in the army or police force, in traditional law firms, banking firms, or in the food and hospitality industry.
Long hair is also considered a safety hazard in some industries, like construction or transport. This is because long hair can get in the way of all the heavy machinery and equipment. Corporate firms with very formal work environments will also have reservations.
There has been some controversy regarding this issue, but legal battles over hair often do not have any positive outcome for the individual. The courts usually agree with the companies that they may choose not to hire you if your appearance does not meet their company policies on grooming and dressing.
What Makes Long Hair Look Unprofessional?
If the length of the hair alone wasn’t enough, there are some mistakes that you should avoid to prevent your long hair from looking even more unprofessional than it is. Here are some things to consider.
1. Knots and Tangles
If you walk into your office just after rolling out of bed with knots and tangles easily perceivable, then it will send out a loud and clear message that you are not very professional. Whether you are a man or woman, you must brush out your hair neatly and ensure your long hair looks tamed.
Even if you brushed it out before starting from home and your hair becomes unkempt during the commute, quickly hop into the bathroom and brush it before stepping into the office.
If this happens regularly, then consider tying a scarf to prevent it from happening every day. Always keep a brush, hair ties, and hair bands in your bag in neutral colors to keep your hair in place at the office.
2. Extreme Hair Styles
If you have long hair, avoid extreme hairstyles while tying it up. A simple braid, bun, or top-knot, with loose hair pulled away from the face, should be appropriate for the workplace.
However, going wild with overly complicated hairstyles or using outlandish accessories to hold them in place will be considered unprofessional. Opt for a neat and minimalist hairstyle that makes you feel professional, and your hair looks neat.
3. Lots of Products
Using some product to hold your place is alright. However, using too much of it so that it makes your hair look rock-hard or too shiny should be avoided. You should also avoid products that have a strong smell.
If you have a problem with flyaway hair, keep a small bottle of spray that can help you tuck your hair in place without seeming like you are doing too much.
4. Dandruff and Frizz
If you have long hair, you should take extra care to keep away dandruff and frizz. Both of these problems result from a dry and malnourished scalp and make you look like you don’t care about your grooming.
Excessive dandruff can show on your dark clothes, and the dryness and frizz can lead to hair fall. If you have dry and damaged hair, you should avoid keeping it long and loose until you have a good hair care regimen.
5. Bizarre Hair Colors
Hair color can bring out your complexion and eye color to the best advantage. However, if you have long tresses, you should be careful about using bizarre hair colors that may be deemed unprofessional and make your long hair stand out abnormally.
Try to use hair colors that make your hair appear healthy and shiny, and once you style and tie your long hair properly, you will look well-groomed and professional with ease.
How to Make Long Hair Look More Professional?
Long hair requires more care, but you cannot escape it if you want to look professional at your workplace. Here are some easy ways to achieve a more professional look with long hair:
1. Wash and Condition
While washing and conditioning are necessary for everyone, it should be a priority for those with long hair. Regular washing with a suitable shampoo keeps your hair manageable, which is essential if you want to avoid looking unkempt at your workplace.
Choose a shampoo and conditioner based on your hair type, whether your scalp is dry or oily, and whether your hair is porous or non-porous. Opt for hair conditioners and serums made from natural ingredients to avoid product residue and hair damage, and it will improve your hair texture in the long run.
2. Trim Regularly
Trimming your long hair regularly is a must to avoid split ends and hair damage. No matter how you style your hair, if the loose ends stick out and seem damaged, it can negatively impact your entire look.
Trimming your long hair every couple of months helps you tie and groom your hair without much hassle. It also makes hair care easier and enables a more professional look.
3. Understand your Face Type
Understanding your face type is essential to keeping your long hair. Sometimes, a slightly shorter length with a fuller volume could work best if you have a leaner face. A sleeker and longer style will look better if you have a plump and rounded face.
This is even more important for men with facial hair, as your beard or moustache can affect how long your hair looks on you. You should pay special attention to grooming your beard along with your long hair for a sleek and professional look.
4. Consult a Stylist
If you want to keep your long hair but are unsure about the styles that suit your face or work best for your professional image, you should consult an expert stylist. They may be expensive, but consider them an investment in yourself.
The stylist will guide you on the best ways to style your long hair so that you look smart and professional. They have options you might not have even considered, which will help boost your self-confidence.
Your professionalism does not depend on your hair alone. Some people have short, well-groomed hair that makes them look very professional. However, they engage in unprofessional behavior like gossiping at the workplace, are not punctual, and do not care about deadlines. Your professionalism is the sum total of everything you do at the workplace, and your appearance is only one aspect.
Hence, if you are truly passionate about your long hair, then take good care of it and adjust it to suit the standards of the company’s dressing and grooming policy. This will be in everyone’s best interest, and no one will complain about your long hair as they see the effort you put into looking professional.